Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA


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About Work/Rest Schedules

Choosing Shaded Rest Areas:

When an air conditioned space is not available, choose or create rest areas with as many of the following beneficial characteristics as possible:

  • In full (complete) shade.
  • Where surfaces are not warm from earlier sun (e.g., north-facing wall).
  • Opened to cooling breezes, but protect workers if breezes feel uncomfortably hot, which can increase risk of heat illness.
  • Free of other hazards (e.g., moving traffic, excessive noise, falling objects).
  • With sufficient space for the number of workers needing rest breaks at one time.
  • Near a supply of cool drinking water.
  • Equipped for workers to do productive light work while their bodies cool.

Rather than being exposed to heat for extended periods of time during the course of a job, workers should, wherever possible, be permitted to distribute the workload evenly over the day and incorporate work/rest cycles. Work/rest cycles give the body an opportunity to get rid of excess heat, slow down the production of internal body heat, slow down the heart rate, and provide greater blood flow to the skin.

For the best protection from heat-related illness, workers should spend the rest periods of the cycle in a cool place, for example in a lightly air conditioned room, trailer or vehicle, or if one is not available, then in full shade.

Rest periods do not necessarily mean that the workers are on break; these can be productive times. During the rest periods, workers may continue to perform mild or light work, such as completing paperwork, sorting small parts, attending a meeting, or receiving training (e.g., instructions for upcoming work, or a tailgate safety talk).

Have a knowledgeable person at the worksite that is well-informed about heat-related illness and able to modify work activities and the work/rest schedule as needed. When evaluating an appropriate work/rest schedule:

  • Shorten work periods and increase rest periods:
    • As temperature rises
    • As humidity increases
    • When sun gets stronger
    • When there is no air movement
    • When protective clothing or gear is worn
    • For heavier work
  • Assign new and un-acclimatized workers lighter work and longer rest periods. Monitor these workers more closely.

When possible, more frequent shorter periods of exposure to heat are better than fewer longer exposures. This means that the work/rest schedules are often based on 1-hour cycles and might call for a rest period of 15 minutes every hour during hot weather, but 45 minutes per hour when temperature and humidity are extreme. Individual requirements may vary greatly.

Setting appropriate work rest schedules is critical for protecting workers during outdoor work. Often it requires the assistance of a trained safety and health profession. In addition to the methods provided as examples below, OSHA provides free and confidential advice to services small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country. Contact OSHA's On-site Consultation Program for assistance in developing your heat-related illness preventions plan and work/rest schedules that appropriate for your worksite. For more information or for additional compliance assistance contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

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Heat Index Risk Level Protective Measures
Less than 91°F Lower (Caution) Basic heat safety and planning
91°F to 103°F Moderate Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103°F to 115°F High Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115°F Very High to Extreme Triggers even more aggressive protective measures

OSHA is a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador committed to working with NOAA and other Ambassadors to strengthen national preparedness for and resilience against extreme weather.

How can OSHA help? Workers have a right to a safe workplace. If you think your job is unsafe or have questions, visit OSHA's Worker's Page or call 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA). It's confidential. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.

OSHA also provides help to employers. OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. For more information or for additional compliance assistance contact OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).

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